In Venu Gopan’s Sarvopari Palakkaaran, Anoop Menon plays Jose, a quintessential male chauvinist from Pala, a small town in Kerala. A senior police officer, what bothers him more than the rising crime rate and corruption is the deteriorating moral standard of the young women in the country. He is disgusted by the sleeveless tops and jeans. Nothing infuriates him than a woman who doesn’t respect men. Naturally, he has a hard time finding the right life-partner, for the prospective brides he comes across are far ahead of him in terms of outlooks and worldview. In the opening scene of the film, he is seen admonishing a young niece for not being ladylike, and in the scene that follows, he is cracking down a violent clash between the ‘Kiss Of Love’ protesters and RSS activists.
Contrary to what it might seem from its title and initial sequences, Sarvopari Paalakkaran‘s core plot has nothing to do with this anti-hero. After meandering pointlessly around him and his household, the film slowly shifts its focus to a high-profile sexual abuse case, and a young feminist who is waging a lone battle against a world that reeks of misogyny.
There are a few instances where the film displays the sensibility and restraint that the subject at its heart demands. The female protagonist, Anupama Neelakantan (Aparna Balamurali), a fearless theatre artiste and social activist, isn’t a damsel in distress, or an over-confident youngster. It is with a certain prudence the film has portrayed ‘Kiss Of Love’, the novel protest that sent shock-waves across Kerala in 2014. It uses the protest as a shorthand to mark the character’s progressive nature, and doesn’t engage with it any further.
But for the most part, Sarvopari Paalakkaran is a sloppy film that is too confused to take a side. It is long-winded, stuffed with poor humour and unintelligent plot points. The choppy editing and uneven camerawork make it harder to take some of its most crucial parts seriously. The intrigue built around Anupama goes overboard, and she ends up as a one-note character.
The weakest element of the plot is the relationship arc of Anupama and Jose. After some initial hiccups, the duo forges a friendship that borders on romance. Out of the blue, the independent young woman with well sorted priorities in life, transforms into a love-struck teenager who yearns for a hug from this unexceptional man who takes immense pride in his conservative middle-class existence.
Menon is, surprisingly, effective in his role. The trademark hyperbole smugness in his voice and body-language is absent, and his Pala slang of Malayalam is on point. Anu Sithara and Alancier are wasted in patchy roles.
Sarvopari Palakkaaran is a film that leaves you unaffected and cold, in spite of having an impassioned tale to narrate. The technical elements are abysmal, and the writing is uninspiring. The sole saving grace is, perhaps, Balamurali who is a sheer delight to watch on screen. Her performance shoulders the second half of the film. She has a great screen presence, and she can outperform or hold her own against any male star in the industry. She adds a shine to the otherwise-dull film with nothing but her unkempt hair, sun-tanned face, casual body language and excellent acting prowess.
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